World Bulletin/News Desk
Hundreds of Florida prisoners have been forced to choose between starving or violating their religious beliefs since the state stopped offering kosher meals in its prisons, the U.S. Justice Department said in a lawsuit.
The federal government filed suit against the Florida Department of Corrections in U.S. District Court in Miami on Tuesday, accusing the state of violating prisoners' religious rights by ending its kosher meal service in 2007.
"Because there is pending litigation, we are not able to make any comments," a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections said on Friday.
Florida holds more than 100,000 prisoners at 146 prisons, work camps and work-release centers and has an annual corrections budget of $2.4 billion.
Until 2007, prisoners who wanted kosher meals were assigned to one of 13 facilities, where about 250 at a time opted for meals prepared under Jewish dietary guidelines.
Those rules, which exclude pork and avoid mixing meat and dairy, also satisfy or exceed the food preparation requirements for other faiths, and the participants included Muslims and Seventh-day Adventists, according to a study group commissioned in 2007 to advise the Florida Department of Corrections.
That Religious Dietary Study Group, which included a rabbi, an imam and legal experts, said the additional expense of providing kosher meals to 250 prisoners was about $146,000 a year. It warned that ending the kosher meal program could violate the law by denying inmates the right to exercise their religious obligations.
"He may either eat the non-kosher food and fail to obey his religious laws or not eat the non-kosher food and starve," the study group said.
Florida ignored the advice and ended the system-wide kosher meal program in 2007. Since 2010, it has provided kosher meals only to about a dozen prisoners at one facility near Miami, but that program is only open to prisoners who are at least 59 and eligible for assignment to a work squad.
The Justice Department lawsuit said consuming a kosher diet is a fundamental tenet of Judaism and other religions practiced by Florida prisoners.
"By refusing to offer kosher meals, the Florida Department of Corrections forces hundreds of its prisoners to violate their core religious beliefs on a daily basis," it said.
The Justice Department said the federal prisons and those in most other states do offer kosher meals to all prisoners with a religious basis for keeping kosher.
Florida prisoners can choose between meat and meatless entrees and can request vegan meals. Florida prisons also offer diets tailored to special medical needs, such as a prenatal diet, a liquid diet or a diet for those with kidney impairment, but none of the options is kosher.
A senior official has said that Burkina Faso will hold their own independent inquiry into the the abuse of children by French soldiers.
Bookseller Sam Mansour has been stripped of his Danish citizenship allegedly inciting terrorism through Facebook posts
President Joseph Kabila has said that he will not stand for a third term when it ends in 2016. The ambassador to the UK has said his compliance will mean that the UK will finance the election.
Ukraine's state-run gas company Naftogaz has announced the suspension of gas purchases from Russia from July 1
A court in Germany has ruled that Youtube must use a digitial fingerprint to prevent users uploading copyright material
Tensions over NATO and the Ukraine conflict have paved the way for the Bulgarian military to revamp its fleet.
Two French Uber executives will face trial over deceitful commercial practices and being complicit in illegal operation of a taxi service
Baltic states criticize Russian authorities for 'absurd' intention to review legality of their independence
European Union will provide Hungary with financial aid to take care of illegal migrant flows
The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken at an official Ramadan iftar saying that Islam will always remain in Germany
In a letter, Greek prime minister offers to accept most of terms in creditor's Saturday offer with some minor conditions
U.S. President Barack Obama signed a legislation aimed on discouraging boycotts against Israel
An online crowdfunding campaign started by a London shoe shop worker is aiming to create a Greek bailout fund of his own.
Sheihk Kirya has become the 12th Muslim cleric to be slain in a period of 2 years.
Ten people suspected of joining ISIL have been arrested in a police operation on the Italian-Albanian border
Italian finance minister says euro zone ministers still open to any Greek agreement